I’ve been a little remiss here. I write extensively about the importance of transcending. It is a foundational practice to establish true Yoga and develop enlightenment.
But I’ve talked much less about the role of devotion. Some people are on a Bhakti or devotional path. But all of us need some of that, in whatever form suits us.
This is because of the key role the heart takes in the evolutionary process. Without that, our life is dry and flat – even if we’re able to realize the Self. A constrained heart limits our potential and the stages that can unfold.
For some, devotion may take more overt forms, like bajans and kirtan. For others devotion will express as dedication to craft, knowledge, or one’s mate.
The key is in the approach. Are we bringing an open and accepting heart to it? This isn’t about performance or appearances or a presentation of it. It’s not a project for the mind. It’s a surrender of self to something greater that we recognize in what the attention is on. It is an allowing or letting go.
The first step can be something simple, like culturing gratitude. Not making a mood, but occasional reminders through the day to come back to gratitude. I talk about the gratitude rock practice here, something that helped set the stage for the first shift here.
Once the habit of gratitude is established, we can go deeper and open to what we love.
It may be what we’re already doing, but now with feeling. Or it may be something new we adopt to culture further. There are many forms of heart expression.
To our children and partner (see upaguru)
In charity work or giving
In prayer or puja
In kirtan or bajans
In ceremony, such as at church
In our love of music or performing
To our spiritual practice
In service to our teacher or their teachings
To our work
To the perfection of action or skill
The key with all of it is being present with it with an open heart as best we can, here and there in the day.
Our entire life can become a spontaneous practice of devotion; just in our approach to it.
The point is not to beat yourself up over not getting it “right.” That is the exact opposite. This is letting go of judgment and blame, especially against ourselves. This is finding our peace and then finding the love in that peace.
A good approach may kick up old emotional baggage and doubts. This is an indication of purification and that it’s working. Stay the course.
Finding your heart resonance may take a bit of time. But so often, it’s right there in what we’ve been doing all along. Only now we make it conscious.
Last Updated on April 21, 2020 by Davidya
One of the most important things about enfolding one’s life – no, not “one’s,” just life – with devotion, is it counters the almost universal modern tendency to make everything into a “project.”
One doesn’t truly fall in love by setting out to do it in 10 easy steps.
It happens, spontaneously.
Devotion happens spontaneously.
“But how do I develop devotion spontaneously?”
And there the project mentality crops up.
It’s funny. We can get lost in our heads trying to “figure out” the paradox of cultivating devotion while devotion cannot be cultivated that way.
Yet our heart knows exactly what/how to do it. Like a child exploring a virgin forest, a musician, an athlete, a potter, an electrician, playing delightfully and innocently with newly discovered variations on their craft.
The neuroscientist/Buddhist teacher Culadasa had a nice way of putting it (he said it in reference to Awakening in general, but it seems appropriate for devotion).
Cultivating devotion is kind of like an accident. You can’t “make” an accident happen, but you can make yourself accident-prone.
Everything Davidya listed can support this – kirtan, service, caring for a garden, writing poetry, cleaning your kitchen with care and attention, writing a response to a blog post, writing a blog post!
and a smile
You raise an excellent point, Don. While I wouldn’t say you can’t “practice” devotion, I would agree you can’t come to it with the mind and expect effective results.
Devotion is about culturing the heart and we have to come to it openly, without preconceptions about “supposed to” or our baggage about church, etc. It’s not a goal or project but a releasing, allowing, etc.
I just saw this, from a talk by Andrew Hewson on devotion. He beautifully addresses that paradox that “I’ cannot “do” devotion:
It’s important to note that devotion is not something that we’re doing either. Devotion is not something that you do. If anything, devotion does you. It completely takes over every aspect of this life. And what you’ll come to find is that as this devotion really starts to throb and taste its own sweetness as the heart that is beating as this entire creation, starts to beat through this body, then there is absolutely nothing that can present itself that will seem to be a challenge, that will seem to be something that we can’t possibly move through.
This devotion becomes our every step, our every breath. It is what is living though this body. And in the context of a so-called non-dual understanding, what we’re looking at is not devotion to a particular object – because we recognize immediately that there’s only this pure Field of Subjectivity, this Field of Silent Seeing that is presently seeing itSelf as all of these vibratory distinctions, all of this patterning of form.
And in the immediacy of this subjectivity, devotion is the flow of this Infinite Power within itSelf. Devotion is from the Self to the Self. And if an object appears, what is being revealed is that this object is not an object. When we have that form that sparks a resonance within us – whether it be Jesus Christ, whether it be Bhagavan Sri Krishna, whether it be the Buddha, whether it be the Mother – whatever form it is, that form is reflecting back to us the Truth of our own Subjectivity, the Truth of your own Self. It is the Self revealing itSelf to itSelf, committing itself to its fundamental Truth.
Excellent, thanks Don.
Yes, devotion is in the category of allowing/ surrender/ letting go. But it can be cultured if we have a platform that is allowing the heart to open.
This felt directed toward someone else until the last three paragraphs; they snagged me. Now I get it. Thanks, as always.
You’re welcome, George.
I’ve been reading a book called The Magic. It’s a bit New Agey but there is some real truth in it. It contains a 29 day course in gratefulness. After the first day, my solar plexus opened up like the sun. The same thing happened when I read your article above.
Ah, from the author of The Secret. The gratitude rock idea I mention came from one of the speakers in the film.
It’s remarkable what can happen when we shift how we are emotionally. That’s the same as energetically.
Thanks for the mention.
I’ve found that forms of devotion can morph into slightly different forms of devotion. For example, being devoted to the beauty of nature can morph into simply being devoted to Beauty. Or Truth, etc.
Yes, excellent point, Share.
I’ve seen that myself also. And people who are more bhakti may well find a movement through various forms as the need of the time shifts.
Increasing subtlety is another flow, such as you mention.
It’s not so much about the form but the movement that does the job. How we are with it is key.
Beautiful post and comments David and everyone <3 I feel as 'I' get out of the way Life increasingly becomes a movement of perpetual love, devotion, prayer and surrender, and there is no need or inclination to try and tell them apart. And 'I' become a little 'valve', point or instrument in/for this unfathomable happening. Sometimes it amps up to almost unbearable levels while other times (when eg some ideas of how life 'should be' etc surfaces 🙂 drier experience or a memory. 🙂 Kids and nature/animals (birds, bees, etc) seem to gauge which one pretty quickly. 🙂 If the practice before was around purposefully chipping away the crust around heart and at times desperate devotional prayers now its more around allowing, getting out of the way and surrendering (to) whatever hinders the flow in order to share it with all Creation. The devotional praise song Glory, Glory Halle Lujah comes to mind 🙂 <3
I recall when Lorn first mentioned perpetual surrender. I was taken aback. I’d gotten out of the way a few times so that major shifts could unfold. But perpetual! That seemed such a stretch.
And then it wasn’t so much. In fact, as you imply, it is the nature of life itself.
My favourite one:
Exactly. Amazing that was 11 years ago. Used to fly to Saskatchewan to their retreats but then they moved out here. 🙂